Opening August 29, 2019
Directed by: Alice Waddington
Writing credits: Brian DeLeeuw, Nacho Vigalondo, Alice Waddington
Principal actors: Emma Roberts, Mila Jovovich, Awkwafina, Eiza González, Danielle Macdonald
Uma (Emma Roberts) awakens one day to find herself no longer a free woman, but a boarder at the remote island reformatory retreat called Paradise. There she is expected to learn to fit in better with society, and in particular, to marry the man her mother has chosen for her. However, the longer she remains on the island, the more she begins to suspect that there is more going on behind the scenes than she first imagined.
With sumptuous set and costume design, Paradise Hills is a visual feast. Unfortunately, a lackluster and under-baked script undermines some of the more interesting features of the film resulting in stilted dialogue, unformed world building, and a climax which fails to make much sense. It feels like some sort of weird combination of The Stepford Wives (1975) and Apostle (2018), with key elements lifted directly from those films, but without the narrative details to make it powerful or sensible. While the feminist principles that the film explores could have been interesting with a more adept script, unfortunately they fail to truly achieve anything as the plot and characters floundered. Though there is certainly artistic value on a visual level, there is little else to recommend this ambitious yet underwhelming film. (Rose F.)